onbruisedknees

"Tell your story. Tell it on your bruised knees if you must, tell it at the risk of madness, scream it at the top of your lungs." –Andrew Lam

Month: January, 2013

My Favorite Books (List your own favorites in the comment section)

The Help Kathryn Stockett
Traveling Mercies Anne Lamott
Grace Eventually Anne Lamott
The Glass Castle Jeanette Walls
Me Talk Pretty One Day David Sedaris
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Great Expectations Charles Dickens
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
Little Bee Chris Cleave
The Red Tent Anita Diamont
The Dovekeepers Alice Hoffman
Educating Esme  Esme Raji Codell
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
One Thousand Gifts Ann Voskamp
Tuesdays with Morrie Mitch Albom
The Forest for the Trees Betsy Lerner
Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg
On Writing Stephen King
Hamlet William Shakespeare

Favorite Life Quotes (Please add your own favorites in the comment section)

credit via marcandangel.com
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman
“Unless it’s mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it’s a waste of your time. There are too many mediocre things in life. Love shouldn’t be one of them.” –from Dream for an Insomniac
 
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life, and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.”–Henry David Thoreau 

 “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” –Frederick Buechner

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set it free” –Michelangelo  

“Be daring, be different, be impractical;
be anything that will assert integrity of
purpose and imaginative vision against the
play-it-safers, the creatures of the
common place, the slaves of the ordinary.”
–Cecil Beaton

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we don’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call direction to their shining- they just shine.” –Dwight L. Moody

“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all of your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality…Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who think it is easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” –Muhammad Ali

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” —Victor Hugo

          ” People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.”
 –Mother Teresa

Free at Last, Free at Last

Not everyone likes it when I put my heart on a plate.


I had an epiphany a few days ago after my mother made me mad and, immediately, a nosebleed streaked down my face and puddled on the floor. I think maybe I don’t communicate or experience emotions correctly. I believe this hypothesis even more because while reading the first chapter of Unglued by Lysa Terkhuerst for a Bible study, I still couldn’t understand why the cover has a raging crazy woman bent over and screaming into a bag. Who gets that angry? Well, I think I do. I just don’t know how to get it out, so my body sweats and freezes and trembles and hurts and bleeds and panics and vomits. So. Attractive.

In high school, I often wished I would die and hoped someone would care enough to go through my stacks of journals and finally understand me. An unlocking of an entire soul. They would read everything I couldn’t say. (And then all of my little poems that didn’t make sense would get published and I’d be known as a little psycho Emily Dickinson).

Then along the way I realized we don’t have to take our truth to our graves.

I will not apologize for the truth. I don’t write for shock value. I don’t write deep family secrets to disgrace and destroy. I write because I don’t like façades. I’m very tired of being careful, of being guarded. My gorgeous model-sister poses for pictures. I refuse to pose in life.
My sister told me to keep being raw. She said if I went back to writing sweet cliché stuff that made people gag, she would punch me in the face. “Be the real you. I do not expect anything else. I will not accept anything less.” Yeah, she’s a pretty cool sister. She also has a vicious right hook. So I have to do what she says.  

When we are all on our deathbeds we will regret words we didn’t say.We will wish we would have cut out all the crap and lived much more authentically even if it was hard at the time. So I choose to vulnerably go into the arena again. For you. For me. For all of us. And just as my body purges pain, my mind and heart are cleansed by words. And so are yours—I know this fact is true. I have a dream someday you’ll wake up. I know the deepest part of all of you knows truth sets free. So live free. At last.

Margaret, Da Vinci, and Me

photo credit: sheknows.com
During a particularly dreary winter, my creative nonfiction professor at UE (award-winning author Margaret McMullan) handed us copies of Leonardo Da Vinci’s health tips. We’re not exactly sure why. Maybe she’d read them recently and it moved her. I get that. I often lingered over a quote or anecdote at the beginning of class because it was about life and held more weight than the dumb story I was supposed to teach that day from the state-mandated high school literature books.

Or maybe she looked at us through her chic red-rimmed writer glasses and thought we all looked a little rough and run-down. In fact, the class before the Da Vinci handout, a guy passed out. Fell right from his chair. Another student and I sprinted (I was wearing heels for my internship after class) to the health and wellness center and frantically tried to explain no, the student who passed out is not that other boy on campus who has the seizures all the time and this was a serious emergency. An ambulance came and put him on a stretcher. The guy was fine. The class was traumatized.

Until Margaret (you must call her by her first name) glamorously glided (she did work for Glamour magazine, you know) to the front of the classroom a few days later holding a vegetable platter and croissants. She read Da Vinci’s health tips aloud: eat simple foods, exercise moderately, go to the toilet regularly, be covered well at night, rest your head and keep your mind cheerful, beware of anger and grievous moods, and try not to drink too much wine (we laughed at that one). She forced us to eat carrots and broccoli and bread, and then probably told us to leave, take a nap, cheer up, and live well.

I adore Margaret. Always wanted to be just like her. Many professors and administrators–Mrs. Nayden, Dean Clayton, Dr. Ciscell, Tiffany (another one of those first-namers)—fed my dreams, but only one professor literally fed me.

I recollect her act of nurture and advice today because…this northern winter is a bitch. The wind chill is 15 below. I find myself losing southern hospitality because all my energy goes into keeping myself warm. Please don’t stop and talk to me while my hood is up and scarf is wrapped around my chin. I am trying to find shelter.

I am not the incredible Da Vinci or the incredible Margaret. But I do have my own tips for getting through the funk. The winter blues. The dumps.

Listen to music. Try K-Love or a good Pandora station. Music is powerful.

Get a plant. You need something alive and growing to remind yourself that you are living and growing, too.

Read. Or Write.

Sip hot tea or coffee or cocoa. It’s just soothing—a simple way to be kind and good to yourself. Also, drink water.

Put warm food in your belly. Or make a fresh salad that looks like summer. Or bite into fruit that tastes like summer. Buy a pineapple. Pineapples are happy. You are worth nutritious food.

When the wind-chill advisories are over, go for a walk.

Get a dog. Seriously. Best tip on this whole list. Let the dog wallow you in love. A dog is always happy to see you.

Look forward to something. A fishing trip. Spring. A new movie coming out. The weekend. Sunshine in the forecast for Thursday. Whatever. Just hold on.

Take your meds. Take them when you’re supposed to.

Give yourself some time to linger in the mornings. Over coffee. Or words. Or prayer.

Fall asleep in your actual bed. Take some Zzzquil if you need to. Wash your sheets. Don’t fall asleep with the television.

Get in touch with someone even though you don’t want to talk to anyone. Understand someone else (probably everyone else) feels in a funk too. Do a little reach out gesture. You probably won’t be sorry.

Get a haircut. Buy some good-smelling shampoo.

Create something. Don’t. Stop. Creating.

Rub lotion on your feet.

Bathe.

Light a candle.

Dance.

invincible summer

thankful for…within me, an invincible summer in the depth of winter

The tender. The best bacon and eggs. Jovie’s new trick (she can now rest a treat on her nose until commanded to eat it). The way Josh praises her. Looking forward to fishing trips and planting a garden and spring. The way Josh always has my hand and always leads me (when I’m off-balance and weak or blind. He is my senses, my bearings, my safety. Always has been). Getting to have Jovie for a dog. ❤ The decision of daisies and the purchase of a dress. Tutoring. Finding a rhythm to life again. Thursday coffee.  how good a home feels. how lovely the people I work with are. The way Josh helps cook now sort of a little bit..I never asked him to. I just rewarded him with lots of praise and gratitude (and sex). steamed broccoli, raspberry walnut vinaigrette, zuppa tuscana, fresh salads, homemade macaroni and cheese, Memorial’s new spring musical, purple and pink, messy braids, invitations, burberry brit perfume, caramel mochas, student messages (love how you guys keep me in the loop..sorry I’m so behind in writing back to everyone. Forgive me. I adore you.), WCRC, preppy floral print scarves, random compliments, the boy in high school who is not my husband who taught me the true meaning of valentine’s day (obviously this kind gesture has stuck with me) and sent me a flower when he knew I thought no one cared and wrote on the card, “A true friend is closer than a brother.” doing things I did not know I could do, imperfect progress, new connections, the sweet woods Milkhouse candle I bought at work yesterday (a little obsessed with this brand) that reminds me of the smell of home (yes, they somehow managed to put southern Illinois into a candle), stargazer lilies, be the good bracelets and the story behind it…check out the Anne Made facebook page and etsy shop. The way working at a floral shop is getting me through a dreary, frigid winter. Surrounding me with living, growing things and vibrant color. And it pulls me back from the dark place.  And I’m so thankful.

Heart on a Plate

 

When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know. “Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said. “She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.” — The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

 

 

 

Last week I filled out several scholarships with questions about involvement in high school and college organizations, leadership positions, volunteer service, work experience, and awards won. And I couldn’t remember them all. Why? Because I used to be fabulous. Fast. Track. Impressive. Sparkly and shiny and stellar. I think I used to poop glitter. Now I just shit.  
And now I’m trying to understand what it means to just be me. That girl with all the passion and ambition….what woman does she turn into?
Well this woman, in the height of her quarter-life crisis (stop laughing), applied to graduate school for creative writing and got in. I can’t afford more education (hence the desperate need for those scholarships), but here’s why I’m scared and why I ultimately want to go anyway: 
The Fears…  
I look back at old essays, I see how awful and cliché they are, and I’m ashamed. I worry that I’m still awful in the present and don’t have the future perspective to see clearly. And I know I have to pass that stupid “SO WHAT” test that all the professors warned about.  Do I?
            I love real and raw writing, writing that feels so…human. But the problem with being human is that being human comes with so many mistakes. I’m not perfect. I’m not polished. I have not read all of the books. I make typos. I like stylistic fragments. I don’t know all of the grammar rules and often break the ones I do know. On purpose because I feel like being a rebel. I am painfully and ignorantly human. Flaws stitched together with good intentions. Mismatched pieces of scrap.  
I’m overwhelmed by the mystery of editors and agents and query letters. How does one’s manuscript get on a bookshelf? I don’t know. I think it’s hard work. And magic. So I want to learn more. I was always so jealous of my students. For the fact that they got to be students. Because I hated being in charge. Because I wanted to write the papers instead of grade the avalanche.  
I read in a magazine that younger adults shouldn’t use the valuable time and money for an MFA program (especially in creative nonfiction) because they aren’t ready. Too early. They haven’t had enough life experience yet. Probably the only thing bad that’s happened to them is the death of a grandparent, the experts say. But people also give me the advice, “Go back to school now. Get whatever degrees you want before kids so you’ll actually complete your goals.” So I’m confused.
 
And I DO want to write about my dead grandma. I also want to explore her marriage to an abusive angry atheist and hope it passes the so what test. And I want to write about my other grandma who is literally insane and covers it up so damned beautifully.
Grandmas aren’t the only thing worth writing about from my twenty-six years. I want to write about my husband and our own intense love story that began when I was only fifteen. I want to write about my too-intense love for students. What teaching gave me and took from me. About the whole education system. And religion. And about God despite religion. I want to write about a unique view of feminism. About moving and people and north and south. About a ridiculous village called Woodbine. About mother-daughter relationships. And sisters. The teeter-totter of losing my hearing, gaining, and losing again. I want to write about childhood and high school and marriage and learning and panic disorder and crippling anxiety. Dear experts, respectfully please go poke yourselves in the eye because I have plenty of writing material. And I will continue to write into motherhood and new careers and more losses and other victories and changes. I want to show you what it all looks like, make you nod your head, “yes.” Show you you’re understood.
Why I must try anyway:
I have a fierce and urgent need for truth—a need to expose the fake, reveal the hidden, see the whole of the experience. I want to sculpt words of clay into a masterpiece without forgetting the masterpiece is of mud. I love confessional writing, the mud of everyday life, and I believe the specific can be universal. Stop pretending, I want to scream at everyone. And myself. 
This need for authenticity is why I’m so drawn to creative nonfiction. Ezra Pound echoes “Make it new.” Truth is ancient and timeless but also a daily discovery, a growing thing.  Real life has enough layers to keep me fascinated and busy peeling. Enough questions to keep me curious. There’s enough grit there. And enough grace.
Writing is prayer to me….it’s always some sort of prayer. Even filled with curses. Even about non-godly things. The release of clenched fists. I tutor a girl who fascinates me and teaches me about herself and myself at her age and myself now and God. She possesses a beautiful and challenging duality. She doesn’t speak much. Communication seems slow and imbalanced and pulled and simple-minded. But she is anything but simple-minded. Her writing is poetic and symbolic and filled with misspellings and shockingly brilliant and scary and complex and genius. She lets me read her prayer journal sometimes.
 Her journal (much like the one I wrote in at her age) is the only thing that softens all the hardness in this heart. She understands the release of writing. I have to start with the tool of writing to get her talking.  Keep turning the knob on the faucet. And the faucet just does a little drip…and then a few slow, weighty, seems-like-forever moments later…it does a little drip-drip again. And then. And then ten minutes later the whole sink overflows with a gushing flood of creativity. Words that are special and different, poetic and so…worth the wait. And oh, how I understand her hesitation. And I will gently draw out all of that inside beauty. Because God’s right there in the details. And writing is a holy act.
Betsy Lerner says that writing is like handing over your heart on a plate. So true. Fears of not being adequate in my writing make me feel like I am nothing. Fears make me hesitate to admit what I want to be.  But the art of writing, the humanness of writing, allows me the chance to be everything. And to be everything is simply all I’ve ever wanted to be.


 

 

 
 

 

 

Do the Helen Keller

Somewhere I picked up a little saying. You know how some people sarcastically respond, “I’d rather have a root canal” than                         .  Other people say they’d rather watch paint dry. Watch grass grow. Eat worms. My saying has been the same for years. For example:

When students asked if I’d spend my night grading their research papers…I’d whine dramatically, But I’d rather poke myself in the eye than grade a hundred research papers.

When Josh asked if wanted to call coyotes in single-digit temperatures…I nodded fake- enthusiastically then bluntly responded, actually I’d rather poke my eye out.

Do I want to help butcher deer this weekend? No thanks. Can I poke myself in the eye instead?

Hey honey, blah blah blah  money, oil wells, drilling, stocks, investing, debt, bills, tighten budget blah blah….Sorry, didn’t catch any of that. Busy poking my finger in my eye.

 Do I want to watch a dumb guy movie for the eighteenth time this month? No. I’d rather continuously poke myself in the eyeball.

Time to do inventory. Time to go poke myself in the eye.

I’d rather poke out both my eyes than live in Woodbine.

 I take it all back. I didn’t know the magnitude of my silly sarcasm which always bought a few laughs.  

Scratching your eyeball hurts like hell. It doesn’t feel like a splinter or a speck. It feels like an entire log. An entire tree. (Matthew chapter 7, anyone?). With poky branches shooting waves of pain. And when I get waves of pain or nervousness, I never fail to puke all over everything. Migraine? Sprained ankle? Interview for the best teaching job ever at Memorial High School? Overwhelmed about moving forward into grad school? Scratch on the cornea? Vomit.

My right eye (the one I poked with my own fingernail as I was attempting to scratch the side of my nose and missed while in the bathtub reading Redbook) is my dominate eye. I can close my left eye and keep my right eye open (You probably knew that because I like to wink at people), but I can’t open my left eye unless my right eye is open.

Now seems like a good time to remind you that I’m practically deaf. I depend on my eyes to read people’s lips. So picture a squinty, sunglass-wearing-indoors-and-at-night, puking, deaf, hot mess blindly tripping over random objects.

My hilarious sister now calls me Helen Keller. I needed a comeback and almost told her to go poke herself in the eye. But I didn’t. I don’t wish that discomfort on anyone.  

grace and peace be yours in abundance

credit: via pinterest homedesignspins.com

my abundance:

 
my niece’s overly large bows and elaborate headbands and tutus..she looks like a ballerina or an indian with a headdress most of the time. russian wedding cakes, aunt linda’s sugar cookies, hot dip that scharlene makes just for me, shrimp, the newness of a new year, my cool new earmuffs, nice travel bags in a cheery yellow, dad’s tradition of getting me the best books ever, mom’s tradition of finding me beautiful and special cameo pieces, jewelry box with music that reminds me of grandma K’s, jovie and klyde’s sweet puppy love, The Game of Things, games with family, cousin talks, the hope josh reminds me of, latin dance workouts with jess, the book Bossypants, boots lined in a row, hands filled with mugs filled with hot drinks, the soundtrack from Country Strong, bringing the four-wheeler back with us (oh, how I’ve missed it!), watching a new little romance form, diet gingerale, dom’s snowflake jammies with the feet, starbucks packets from grandma mabel, my awesome victoria secret pjs and robe, plum colored nail polish, josh in the kitchen right now preparing deer meat for supper, reminders of what really matters, dad hugs, getting to talk to grandma this morning before she went into ICU, a new strength I didn’t know my mom had, the way writing connects people, sweet kindness, standing on grace   

Item of Clothing Kept for the Memory

The dress bought on our first anniversary.

Patterns of white, brown, and tan.
The length of the floor.
 Fit the hips like second skin.
 Too sleek for any sort of garments
underneath.
 And I danced.
 The girl stops apologizing
 for the woman she is.
 For dancing the way she wants to.
For all that is natural.
 Free. Fierce. Feminine.
He peels off my tribal dress.
Fingers undone ringlets damp with sweat.
 Flings all of the heat and the rhythm
to the crisp-cool sheets
 of bed.

credit: via pinterest